DeSantis rules out being Trump's VP, blames ex-aides with 'ax to grind' for attacks

The Florida governor made the comments in a call with supporters.

February 22, 2024, 5:23 PM

Florida GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis this week quashed speculation about being Donald Trump's vice president, blamed bitter ex-staffers for attacks he's weathered from Trump's allies, and criticized conservative media's coverage of the the former president.

DeSantis made the remarks in a 30-minute Zoom call with supporters on Wednesday, audio of which was obtained by ABC News. (The New York Post was the first to report on the call).

"People were mentioning me [as his vice president]. I'm not doing that," DeSantis said, when asked who he'd like to see Trump consider for the post.

"I know some people are really actively seeking it," he continued. "It seems to me, just from watching kind of the body language and stuff, that you have a handful of folks who seem to be auditioning for it."

As he campaigned for president, DeSantis, who suspended his run last month, ruled out being Trump's running mate, but speculation arose on Tuesday after Trump, in a Fox News town hall, appeared to acknowledge the governor was among the people he was considering for the post.

After shooting down the idea, DeSantis criticized the way he believes Trump and his team are vetting vice presidential candidates, saying, "I have heard that they're looking more in identity politics. I think that's a mistake."

A Trump spokeswoman, Karoline Leavitt, fired back in a statement, saying, "Ron DeSantis failed miserably in his presidential campaign and does not have a voice in selecting the next vice president of the United States."

DeSantis endorsed Trump after dropping out but has not campaigned publicly for the former president.

PHOTO: Ron DeSantis speaks during an election night watch party at the Convention Center in Tampa, Fla., on Nov. 8, 2022.
Ron DeSantis speaks during an election night watch party at the Convention Center in Tampa, Fla., on Nov. 8, 2022.
Giorgio Viera/AFP via Getty Images, FILE

Over 200 people joined Wednesday's call, most of whom were people DeSantis' campaign had recruited to be delegates at the Republican National Convention in July.

A woman who introduced the governor -- who identified herself as a leader of DeSantis' national delegate effort -- said that the people on the call had been "willing to fight a floor battle for [DeSantis] in a brokered convention."

At one point, DeSantis, who endured a barrage of attacks from Trump and his allies on the campaign trail, fielded a question about their attempts to "marginalize" the governor.

He downplayed the concern and attributed the blows to vengefulness of former allies who now work for Trump.

"I think he's got people in his inner circle who were part of our orbit years ago that we fired. And I think some of that is they just have an ax to grind."

The governor was likely referring to, among others, Susie Wiles, a top Trump aide who helped DeSantis reach the Florida governor's mansion before being dismissed by the governor in 2019.

"She's the main one," a person close to the governor told ABC News.

Chris LaCivita, a Trump aide, reposted an X post about DeSantis' comments, calling the governor a "sad little man."

On Wednesday's call, DeSantis expressed frustration with conservative media outlets he believes have failed to cover Trump critically enough during the primary.

"You know, he said at some point, he can shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and not lose a vote. Well, I think he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and the conservative media wouldn't even report on it that it had happened. I mean, that's kind of where we're at," he said.

As for his own political future, DeSantis did not rule out a 2028 presidential run, telling those on the call, "I think a lot happens in politics."

ABC News previously reported that DeSantis has signaled privately he is open to running again in four years.